Our February Book of the Month is Oscar Wilde’s Elegant Republic: Transformation, Dislocation and Fantasy in fin-de-siècle Paris by David Charles Rose.
Why was Paris so popular as a place of both innovation and exile in the late nineteenth century? Using French, English and American sources, this first volume of a trilogy provides a possible answer with a detailed exploration of both the city and its communities, who, forming a varied cast of colourful characters from duchesses to telephonists, artists to beggars, and dancers to diplomats, crowd the stage. Through the throng moves Oscar Wilde as the connecting thread: Wilde exploratory, Wilde triumphant, Wilde ruined. This use of Wilde as a central figure provides both a cultural history of Paris and a view of how he assimilated himself there.
By interweaving fictional representations of Paris and Parisians with historical narrative, Paris of the imagination is blended with the topography of the city described by Victor Hugo as ‘this great phantom composed of darkness and light’. This original treatment of the belle époque is couched in language accessible to all who wish to explore Paris on foot or from an armchair.
To find out more, please click here to read a sample extract and contents page.
We are offering all of our readers a generous 60% discount on this best-selling title. To redeem your discount, please enter the promotional code BOMFEB17 during checkout. Please note that this is a time-limited offer that will expire on28th February 2017.
Please see below for highlights of the praise this book has been receiving:
“This is a book research libraries should keep on the open stacks and readers of ELT may wish to add to their personal reference collections. […] Rose is led by a desire not only to add detail to the record, but to clean up mistakes in past scholarship. He succeeds in doing this by being careful about chronology and corroboration. […] Ellmann’s biography of Wilde is a great work of literary scholarship, but its concept of homosexuality is dated and it is wrong or incomplete in many details. Someday it will be superseded by another study of the life. The author of that work will want to have Oscar Wilde’s Elegant Republic close to hand, and will often feel grateful to David Rose.”
—Adrian Frazier; English Language in Transition, 60:2 (2017)
“Oscar Wilde’s multiple visits to Paris are well known … but for many readers, what is less clear is what Paris was all about – reality and cliches or literary fantasies don’t always go well together. In Oscar Wilde’s Elegant Republic, David Charles Rose looks to remedy this by proposing a socio-cultural cartography drawn from three main areas: transformation, dislocation and fantasy. His stated purpose is to ‘influence our understanding of both Wilde’s creativity and his social position’ (175), and this book makes it possible to better grasp the many facets of his environment and to better understand the relevance of the famous contrast between the work and the life of a genius.”
—Peter Dunwoodie, Emeritus Professor of French Literature, Goldsmiths, University of London; Rue des Beaux Arts 56 (2016)
“[T]his book stands as a rare and complex gift that Rose has given his readers. It is a sprawling study about a sprawling city at a sprawling time in its existence, yet nonetheless we come from it exhilarated and gratified. […] Oscar Wilde’s Elegant Republic gave me a much clearer sense than I previously had of the creative, emotional and imaginative atmosphere of fin de siècle Paris. It has enhanced my understanding not just of Wilde’s writing but of the work of his contemporaries, French, American, and English with far greater effectiveness than any recent criticism I have encountered. Perhaps it is because Rose, unlike so many contemporary literary critics, actually enjoys his topic and writes out of that pleasure.”
—Michael Patrick Gillespie, Florida International University; Irish Literary Supplement, Autumn 2016
“The work examines the relationships and interrelationships which were developed in Paris and Parisian society at this time. It was a large and diverse community, comprised of writers, artists, composers and singers, amongst others, from many different nations. We discover how many non-Parisians came to be residing or sojourning in Paris, what brought them there and their experiences of this great city; oftentimes the narrative is interspersed with a blending of both factual and fictional accounts, which works very well. Through a close reading of Oscar Wilde’s Elegant Republic, we are better able to understand the psyche of Wilde within this cosmospolitan metropolis. […] Interestingly, it does form the first instalment of a trilogy … No doubt [the other two volumes] will continue to add to Wilde scholarship in an original, innovative and detailed way, as the first volume has done.”
—Jennifer Martin; Books Ireland (November/December 2016)
“[This] is essentially an encyclopedic survey of Paris in all its facets. Rose, it seems, has digested everything, at least as related to the period. He ranges from the morgue to Montparnasse, caviar to caves, fairies to ferries, cynosure to cyanide. His erudition is vast. […] It is a book in many ways similar to the city it describes: stitching together threads, wandering off in various directions, floating on the surface, digging for dirt, rambling, reflecting, resting. A labor of love to the city of love.”
—Nikolai Endres, Western Kentucky University; Victorians: Journal of Culture and Literature, 130 (2016)
“In Oscar Wilde’s Elegant Republic, Wilde becomes a prism for reconstructing nineteenth-century Paris as a social and intellectual network – a cosmopolitan and at the same time distinctly French metropolis. In so doing, the book also opens up original perspectives on other bridge figures between British and French cultures, such as John Gray, George Moore, John Singer Sargent and Arthur Symons. Rose makes a compelling case to rethink that often-invoked but rarely properly-explored topic that is Wilde’s involvement with French culture – we just need to remember that even Ellmann, the most authoritative among Wilde’s biographers to date, rattles rather quickly through Wilde’s Parisian associations. It is to be hoped that his book will inspire further research into Wilde’s French connections and, more broadly, into the literary connections between the British and French fin de siècle.”
—Professor Stefano Evangelista, Fellow of Trinity College, Oxford; Editor, The Reception of Oscar Wilde in Europe